Album Review: The Neal Morse Band – The Great Adventure

The Great Adventure

The Neal Morse Band is back with another massive concept record spanning two discs similar to that of 2016’s “The Similitude Of  A Dream”. The last line of lyric in that record was “Let the great adventure now begin” which leads us right into their next effort due January 25th 2019, “The Great Adventure”. For me there is always something special about prog rock concept records as they are filled with deep story and epic arrangements circling usually the best of the best in the music world. So lets take a dive into this great adventure and see whats in store for the listener.

Disc I, Chapter I starts us off with a grand overture featuring dreamy sounds, cinematic elements and robust prog rock ending Chapter I with the Phil Collins-esque “The Dream Isn’t Over”. Chapter II welcomes us to the world of this great musical adventure by Neal Morse and Co. with thick jazzy prog grooves and classic rock vibes echoing Queen at times. The opening few songs on this record take you on a roller coaster ride of musical style mixing story with soft rock, jazz, metal, classical, and the use of unique arrangements as we mysteriously weave through the adventures that wait before us. Several repeating themes and riffs pop up here and there as with most concept albums acting as the glue that holds everything together into one cohesive work of mastery. To send off Chapter II we start off with heavy organ ramping up to more thematic repetition in “To The River” which ends with an uplifting acoustic piece to kick us right into Chapter III.

Chapter III – The Great Adventure calls back good old 70s Boston with its layering of acoustic/electric guitar and chanting vocal melodies before opening back into symphonic prog and chaotic production. “Venture In Black” a dark and vulturous part of the album with twsists and turns as we enter the head bobbing grooves of “Hey Ho Let’s Go”. Disc I, Chapter III comes to a close with a soft ballad type as bells ring in the next disc.

A strong and vibrant disc I makes you hope that there is a continuation of this mastery as we step into the final parts of this musical journey. Can the second disc hold true to the first or even top it?

Disc II, Chapter IV opens with orchestrated emotion before thumping into repeating elements from the prior disc along with metal riffs and crushing solos. Leading us into the easy listening “Long Ago” and “The Dream Continues” frantically bursting into “Fighting With Destiny” a straight rocker later coming to life as a prog piece with trading solos and odd harmonies, before happily taking a turn into the “Vanity Fair” a unique use of vocal layering and melody as the band grooves behind its interesting dialogue, closing out Chapter IV with some festive fun on the guitar.

The 5th and final chapter erupts the prog metal which has been hidden for most of disc II so far. The repeating theme of “Welcome To The World” weaves in and out of the heavy prog as we mysteriously take on “The Element Of Fear” embellished in chaotic and frenzy filled instrumentation eventually calming softly down setting up our final few moments of this huge musical undertaking. “The Great Despair” plows along with its sing along arrangement and versatile solo work. Organs and war drum pounding open “Freedom Calling” before growing into the biggest prog monster on the 2nd disc with Mike Portnoy’s drum parts channeling his work on Scenes From A Memory (Dream Theater). The Closing number of a journey worth taking “A Love That Never Dies” softly brings this massive album to its credits with superb instrumentation once again.

Although I felt that Disc I was stronger and more laced up with the prog that I love and cherish I still thought Disc II was a great listen and it had its moments that shined. Overall “The Great Adventure” is epically arranged and produced and does exactly what a Neal Morse Band album should do… Take you on a full throttle musical journey that must be respected on a level of greatness no matter your taste in music. If you like to just sit and listen to music for a few hours and just get lost in the great work of musicianship then this is the record for you. I give this album a solid 8.8/10 and would recommend this effort to anyone looking to find some time in their day to escape and enjoy some entertainment at its finest.